By: Taylor Clary, Senior Account Director, Shopper Engagement [Header image credit: Canva]
Coronavirus stay-at-home orders shifted the role of retailers in consumers’ everyday lives overnight. Shoppers identified retailers as either essential or non-essential. For those retailers deemed essential, this designation reframed the shopping trip as well. A trip to Target was no longer about the “treasure hunt” – leisurely strolling through the aisles and picking up a new snack for the kids or impulsively adding a book for yourself to the cart. Shopping was now quite simply about procuring essential items as safely as possible – quickly, and with a good supply of hand sanitizer.
In addition to concerns for one’s own health, many shoppers’ trips were burdened by additional stressors: Could they afford all the items on their list? Would the products that they need for their family be available? Entering a store once had the potential for enjoyment and discovery, but now was suddenly only about necessity and safety.
Now, restrictions are loosening across the country, businesses are being allowed to reopen following city and state guidelines, and people are cautious about interaction but have an increased desire for community. While shoppers can now shop at more locations, posted mask requirements, floor clings enforcing social distancing, and stanchions limiting the number of people in store continue to dampen the joy of shopping.
Kantar recently reported that 95% of shoppers say they have modified their behavior due to Coronavirus, with 83% avoiding certain spaces and/or minimizing shopping. After months without shopping for fun, it’s difficult to imagine a return to enjoying the experience, especially when there are still necessary precautions in place. But at a time when people are yearning for a return to normalcy and human connection, an enjoyable in-store experience can deliver just that.
So how does retail restore the joy of shopping, browsing, and finding new treasures in an environment that reinforces concern?
A few retailers have found unique ways to re-engage their shopper and keep them safe.
Fashion retailer SuitSupply has traditionally offered a high-touch in store experience. Now, as the company reopens store locations, it has “set up a transparent plexiglass wall in its fitting rooms where sales associates can reach through to take measurements while having minimal contact with customers,” allowing shoppers the personalized service of the custom suit fittings the retailer is known for without the fear of exposure (Glossy).
The nation’s largest retailer is still able to deliver value beyond price with low-contact retailtainment events. While many thought these events – which typically involve a large gathering of people – may be a thing of the past, Walmart brought a unique Mother’s Day experience to life for shoppers with a drive-thru, socially-distant retailtainment event with free samples, mannequins showing off new spring and summer fashion, and more. (Field Agent)
If retailers want to see a return to non-essential brick-and-mortar shopping, they must motivate their shoppers with the unique joy and possibility that only an in-store experience can provide.
This may mean adapting pre-COVID-19 plans to work, but most likely, it means creating newly imagined ways to delight and inspire shoppers within the new precautions of an in-store environment. If it takes until a vaccine is available for shopping to be unrestricted, creativity will be required to find new moments of joy that will matter to shoppers. We recommend adapting quickly and taking a test and learn approach, even in brick and mortar.